Nearly 160,000 students attend colleges and universities in Boston.

More than 34,000 live in private, off-campus housing within the city. To accommodate the annual influx of college students, the lease cycle for rental housing typically starts in September. As a result, thousands of apartments change hands during moving week, the period surrounding Sept. 1.

The annual ritual strains the city's resources.

Planning begins as early as June in the Inspectional Services Department, which convenes meetings of its housing, building, environmental sanitation and constituent services staff. City officials also track major sporting events and collaborate with BC, BU and other schools with large student populations to predict the activity around Sept. 1.

The city puts temporary traffic and parking restrictions in place in neighborhoods such as Allston/Brighton, Fenway, Mission Hill and Roxbury, which have large concentrations of students.

Trash is also part of the tradition.

Renters often don't have enough room to cram their garbage into overstuffed bins as Sept. 1 approaches. Items such as couches, mattresses and desks are routinely abandoned on the side of the street. Student enclaves like Allston transform into a trash picker's paradise, but also an unsightly mess.

Code enforcement violations

Boston's Code Enforcement Division issued an average of about 660 citations per week in 2016 for violations related to garbage and trash on residential properties. That number spiked to 2,043 violations during the seven-day period surrounding Sept. 1, as thousands of renters shuffled in and out of their apartments, sometimes leaving unwanted belongings behind.

Most citations were issued for improper storage of trash, which carries a $25 fine. Code enforcement police also cited 240 people for illegally dumping up to 1 cubic yard of trash, a violation that carries a heftier $250 fine.

311 complaints

Reports to the city's 311 system related to trash spiked during moving week. Many people submitted photos with their complaints, chronicling the accumulation of refuse on the streets.

Mapping the violations

Parcels shaded in red indicate at least one code enforcement violation related to trash or garbage was logged during moving week in 2016. Yellow dots represent locations where a 311 complaint with a photograph was recorded during the same time period. Mouse over the dots to view the photos.

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Rodents and pests

What else peaks during moving week? The number of complaints for rodent activity, bed bugs and other pests. This isn't necessarily surprising; researchers in Chicago determined that 311 calls for garbage are a good indicator that rat activity will increase in the same area.

By the numbers:

  • Rodent Activity: 122 complaints
  • Mice Infestation - Residential: 19 complaints
  • Rat Bite: 1 complaint
  • Bed Bugs: 19 complaints
  • Pest Infestation - Residential: 17 complaints

Noisy parties

The return of students to the city also coincided with a small uptick in the number of noisy parties logged by the police department. The increase came soon after moving week.

Mapping rodent and pest complaints

The map below shows 311 complaints for rodents and pests received during moving week in 2016.

View a larger map.

How was this made?

Data for the project was provided by Analyze Boston, the city's open data portal.

The project makes use of code enforcement violations, 311 service requests and crime reports from August 2015 to the present. All photographs were submitted with 311 complaints.

The map additionally uses the 2017 parcels file and the city of Boston boundary layer.